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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

I74                            THE GAY GENIUS

held. Then followed a long list of the persons he had recommended for
office, for it was usually considered an important measure of an official's
worthiness whether he had put forward good or bad men for public
duty. It was stated that during his official career he had received two
demerits. Once he was fined eight catties of copper for failing to attend
die official autumn ceremony when he was deputy magistrate at FeTI^
shiang at the time when he had a quarrel with his superior. He was
also fined eight catties of copper during his term at Hangchow for fail-
ing to report the embezzlement of public funds by a certain minor
official. "Outside these two cases, he has a clear official record."

At first Su Tungpo acknowledged responsibility only for those poems
he had written when he was visiting the villages near Hangchow, those
in which he complained of the farmers eating without salt and the?
abuse of the farmers' loans, and certain others mentioned in the
impeachment. He could not recall having written anything else th$ft
had any bearing on current politics. For some days he denied having
written satirical poems to his friends, and continued to plead not guilty.
It was a question of what should and what should not be considered
"slander of the government", and what constituted "slanderous attacks".
But on the thirtieth of August he decided to plead guilty; he then
admitted that he had written satirical poems about the regime and had
exchanged such poems with his friends. He said, however, that he "had
not tried to conceal them", since it was a question of interpretation. In
the course of the trial he was made to sign an affidavit admitting: "Since
I joined the different ministries, I have not received rapid promotions..
Besides, the people promoted during the new regime were moslif|
young men aW differed in opinion from myself. Therefore I composed
poems and other writings of protest and criticism, in the hope that
many people would read these poems and be brought around to my
point of view." There were altogether thirty-nine persons among the
friends of Su Tungpo who were implicated in the case, and over a
hundred poems were brought up in the trial for examination, each of
which the author was required to explain. As Su Tungpo had in all his
poetry used the choicest phrases and a great number of literary and
historical allusions, we are indebted to this record of the trial for the
author's own elucidations of many passages in his texts. Some of
poems were highly deceptive and had hidden points to be appreciai
only when one understood the historical references. I have so
avoided these poems with learned allusions, because they would require
a separate explanation for each literary metaphor or historical reference,
and would make difficult reading, besides burdening the reader with
pedantry. Such an exhibition of pedantry would not be at all difficult
because for centuries Su's commentators have been busy unearthing the
original passages in history and Tang poetry to which his lines referred.